By Todd Burmester
Next week they race again at the annual Warrnambool Jumps Carnival, and if you’ve never been, do yourself a favour and put this on your bucket list. Let’s start with the not so great – The weather is likely to be considered cool at best for anyone not from that part of the world, and its likely that you’ll strike some rain, but this is a small price to pay for the experience.
The carnival itself goes over three days, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, generally with 9 or 10 races each day (it’s certainly a staying event, not a sprint). The feature races include the Brierly Steeplechase, The Galleywood Hurdle, The Warrnambool Cup, The Wangoom for the sprinters and of course, The Grand Annual Steeplechase.
The Warrnambool jumps track is unique, in the sense that they go around a figure 8 on the steeple track, and go well out into the paddocks at the back of the course. The phrase ‘uphill and down dale’ comes to mind. It’s hard to describe the feel of being there watching them, but when you are, you just know there is something about it that makes it an experience not to be missed.
The debate will continue to rage on as to the future of jumps racing, and there is no doubt it is a dangerous sport, but lets face it, the only argument that stands true, is that jumps horses will have no future if they don’t compete in this sport, which they seemingly enjoy doing.
In terms of accommodation, if you decide not to find somewhere local to stay, my recommendation is to drive the 30km or so back to Port Fairy – A quaint little town, with as many pubs as streets, places to eat out, and a bakery to get something fresh for breakfast. It’s only a short walk to the port itself where there will be plenty of local boats moored, if you are looking to fill some time before the first.
Whilst there you’ll obviously want to try and back a winner, and what I will say about this is that it’s generally not easy. The betting ring however is usually quite strong, attracting a lot of the regular metropolitan bookmakers. The fields are usually big, and that often means value. My key word of advice is not to be afraid of horses at double figure odds that have run within 4 lengths of the winner at either of their last two starts.